MISTAKES AND MAKING ALLOWANCES

I am sure you will have all been following the stories of the review of member allowances at the County Council.

Today the Standards Committee agreed that the appointment process for the independent panel was sufficiently flawed that they were unable to ratify the appointments.

In simple terms this means a new panel will have to be formed and a new report carried out.

All three main parties agreed for the report to be carried out and councils are required periodically to review member allowances.

The Standards Committee found flaws in the process taken by officers to bring the report to Full Council and therefore should not have been debated and agreed last month by Council. A result I back.

Cambridgeshire County Council Chief Executive Mark Lloyd has apologised to the leaders of the Council’s political groups for these mistakes. Which I think shows good leadership in backing his officers and I know he is working hard to make sure this does not happen again. Making mistakes is human, it is how we deal with it that reflects on the organisation.

Yes I am frustrated that this has happened but mistakes happen and we need to learn from them and move on. We will NOT have a blame culture. Above all the electorate needs to have confidence in the processes that are carried out by the council.

However, we are still left with the vital but knotty problem of breaking down barriers to encourage councillors from all walks of life and allowances play a part in this. I will continue to look for ways to make sure we encourage those who may be on low wages or caring for a child or relative to stand for councillor. We cannot have true representation unless councillors come from all walks of life.

Making sure we give residents every opportunity to become councillors and break down these barriers to prevent this is a very important issue both locally and nationally.

In fact it is far too important to become the target of cheap political tricks. I want to put the record straight on some of the accusations being made.

• Councils have a duty to periodically review their member allowances and this report was agreed by all three main political leaders after talking to their groups.

• From that point officers carry out the process and neither I nor any of the other group leaders had anything to do with it, apart from give evidence. Suggestions otherwise are baseless. We wanted this to be truly independent and officers suggested timescales not us.

It is ironic in a debate about how we encourage local councillors to come forward and give a voice to their communities the Lib Dems chose to be silent. I have been told by their own councillors that they were told to stay quiet. This is disrespectful towards participative democracy and Cambridgeshire’s people deserve better. I can only hope they show more maturity and represent their residents by speaking in the debate when it comes back again.

Some context. No one has been hurt or died. A few officers and politicians, like myself, have been embarrassed. Let’s get over it and refocus on the important issues of adult social care, children’s services and environment services – topics that don’t seem to ever be mentioned by opposition members.

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